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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Top 6 Things You Need to Know Before Travelling to Sri Lanka – Handy Tips for Tourists
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 6 Things You Need to Know Before Travelling to Sri Lanka – Handy Tips for Tourists

Here are six things you should know before you head off on your Sri Lankan adventure. These tips will make your life a lot easier once you are on the island and travelling about.


Learn a Few Local Phrases

Outside of the commercial capital and mainstream tourist towns, not all people you encounter will be able to converse in English. So it's best to learn a few phrases in Sinhala beforehand. Sinhala is the language spoken by the majority race in Sri Lanka. Learning phrases related to prices and directions will be especially useful when it comes time to bargain for food or souvenirs at shops and for fares with taxi and three-wheeler drivers.


Always Carry Some Cash

An increasing number of establishments accept international card payments in Sri Lanka. This includes almost all major restaurants, hotels and luxury resorts in Sri Lanka such as the beachside Blue Water Club Suites and similar others. However, a lot of small to medium-sized shops still do not offer the facility of paying by debit or credit card. In these places, cold hard cash is the only currency that you can use. Therefore, make sure to keep enough cash on hand for purchases in little shops and for emergencies in the case that your card isn't accepted. If not, you may well find yourself in a sticky situation. Many establishments now post signs around their premises, which indicate whether or not card payments are accepted. If you can't spot such a sign, ask the staff before you indulge in any of the goods or services offered there.


It's Quite Safe

Compared to some other developing countries, Sri Lanka is deemed to be quite safe for travellers and tourists. It's also said to be a lot safer for independent female travellers in comparison to certain parts of its neighbouring country, India. This especially holds true when it comes to going out alone in the evenings and dressing less conservatively. Therefore, while you should always err on the side of caution and take the safety measures you would elsewhere, rest assured that Sri Lanka is a relatively safe haven for foreign travellers.


Smiles Galore

Sri Lankan citizens have long-since earned a name for being some of the most welcoming people around when it comes to tourists. So expect warm, friendly smiles and toothy grins, especially from inhabitants in the countryside and tourist towns during your stay.


Traffic Can be a Riot

Once in Sri Lanka, you may opt to rent a vehicle in order to get around during your stay. If you do go for this option, please keep in mind that Sri Lankan traffic is a lot more chaotic and unruly than that of more developed nations. While strict regulations on matters like overtaking from the left and having exclusive bus lanes have recently been put in place, it will take Sri Lankan drivers a while before they conform to world standards. Make sure to watch out for three-wheeler drivers and motorcyclists in particular as they are known to take the most risks when driving and can easily swerve into you from either side. A popular option that many tourists go for with regards to transport is to hire a private driver and vehicle during their stay. It can be a lot cheaper to do this in Sri Lanka than in parts of the developed world, so it is quite a feasible option.


It Isn't Wise to Drink Straight from the Tap

Unlike in some western countries such as the UK, in Sri Lanka, it is most certainly not advisable to take your drinking water straight from the tap. Tap water has not been sufficiently treated for this purpose by most standards, and you may fall sick if you consume it. Either go for bottled mineral water or filtered water or else make sure to boil and cool tap water before consuming it.